17 Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, 18 for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. 19 That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made them known to you today, even to you. 20 Have I not written for you thirty sayings of counsel and knowledge, 21 to make you know what is right and true, that you may give a true answer to those who sent you?
Have you ever watched a fool? Remember that unsettling premonition that things are about to go bad. It’s the stuff of viral internet videos. You fear the situation will unfold before you like a slow motion car crash. You have an opportunity to give counsel, or there is a momentary pause in the action, but you can’t find the words. I’ve been there. I suspect you’ve been there too.
The book of proverbs can help. This inspired life line is both a tool chest and a treasure chest. It’s a tool chest in the sense that everything you need to take apart the complexities of life is at your finger tips. No tool, either precise or powerful, has been left out of the book of Proverbs, and the other wisdom books serve only to reinforce what it contains.
The book of Proverbs is also a treasure chest because wisdom is priceless. If only we could put a price tag on all our mistakes. It would stagger us to consider how much time, money, and opportunity we’ve wasted. In some ways we’re better off know knowing all the reasons we should be ashamed of our choices. However, in light of the amazing grace of God, we can lean on Solomon (ultimate the wisdom of God) to be our coach, critic, trainer, therapist, encourager, and mentor.
In proverbs 22:17 the word translated “incline” means to stretch or even to bow. The reader is encouraged to bend his ear toward “the words of the wise”. But it’s not enough to just listen. You also need to obey. So in addition to hearing, the listener is called to “apply your heart” or literally to “appoint your intelligence” to the duty of learning and obeying. This is no small challenge. It takes discipline and hard work. However, for the person who will persevere through the difficult times, the rewards are unparalleled.
The benefits are not just for you. Your knowledge will able to rescue foolish people from making terrible choices if you just speak up. Tell them with all humility to listen to what you have to say because your advice comes from God. When it comes to the sayings of the wise, if “all of them are ready on your lips” (22:18) then life will be pleasant for you, and your counsel will be helpful to others. By the power of the Scriptures, you are given the solemn responsibility to speak words of perfect, inspired truth, directly into any situation. In this way, the wisdom of God is applied to the problems of mankind.
For the counsellor, there is a built in protection from pride and self-exaltation as well. The glory for this wisdom doesn’t go back to us. We are not going to be praised like Aristotle or Seneca. Those who interact with us more frequently and openly will not consider us the fountainhead of all wisdom. We exist only to make much of the one source for wisdom, and that is God. We trust God to deliver the truth to us through his word, and then we trust him to use it for his own glory in the life of others.
Proverbs 22:17-24:22 is a series of lessons to help anyone through life. The context indicates that an individual or delegation was sent to get the riches of the wisdom of Solomon, and this was his response. He gives thirty wise sayings for counsel and instruction (22:20). These sayings, in addition to being an instructive guide for the person who obeys, are also ways to determine what is true. If a person can discern what is “right and true” (22:21) then they will have every opportunity to avoid the deceptive snares of an evil world. In an age searching for answers, the man with the right proverb is king.